Tinny speakers with worse sound quality than an AM radio. Movies not beginning until it’s dark enough to see the giant screen. Weather cancelling the perfectly planned date night. And yet you might still hold a grudge against the development that got built over your favourite local drive-in. Drive-in theatres are making a comeback, though! We’ll cover a few top ones in Ontario.
What Happened to Drive-In Theatres?
The first surge of popularity for drive-in movie theatres was in the 1950s. After that, interest dwindled as indoor theatre technology advanced. Movies could start at any time of day, sound and picture quality improved considerably, and weather was no longer a factor.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic inspired people to find safe ways to get out of the house while limiting their exposure to others. As a result, drive-in theatres were one of the few businesses that saw an increase in customers since 2019.
Although the height of the health restrictions seems to be behind us, many Canadians are still enjoying the resurgence of outdoor movies from the comfort of their own car.
In this post, we’ll look at five highly rated ones you can add to your summer bucket list.
With 4,000 Google reviews, the 5 Drive-in is the most-rated drive-in in Ontario. It opened in 1964 in Oakville and can fit up to 1,000 cars. It has three screens, a snack bar, and a play area for children to enjoy.
Pricing is based on the number of passengers in one vehicle. Couples (2 adults) can visit the 5 Drive-in for $26 and families with two adults and three to four kids can enter for $35. Certain rates increase slightly during the holiday season.
Located in Hamilton, the Starlite Drive-in has three movie screens and has been in business since 1955. It’s managed by the same company as the 5 Drive-In, Premier Theatres, so pricing is the same. Premier Theatres owns several other drive-ins across the province, all of which are generously rated by their visitors.
Lindsay Twin Drive-In
The Lindsay Twin Drive-In was built in the 1950s in the Kawartha Lakes region and has two screens. General admission (age 12+), which includes two showings, is $15. Kids get in for $5 and there’s no cost for children under two years old. New this year at the Lindsay Twin is a catering service for those hosting group events.
For those with cottages up north, the Muskoka Drive-In is a great place to catch a movie. Adults can see two films for $12, $5 for children between six and 12, and free admission for children five and under. The drive-in also has a playground and an arcade where you can try your luck on a few vintage games.
Lastly, the Skylight Drive-In can be found in the city of Pembroke, just under two hours north of Ottawa. The Skylight charges a flat fee of $20 per car. It’s much smaller than some of the other drive-ins, with a capacity of 150 cars, but this means you may get a spot closer to the screen. The Skylight also offers a special deal where you can pay $25 per car to watch movies all night from dusk to dawn.
A Few Tips If It’s Your First Time
Most theatres begin their showings at dusk once it’s dark enough to see the movie screen. For specific operation dates and what films are playing, visit each theatre’s website. Websites will also detail any rules each theatre is still upholding regarding social distancing.
In addition, bring a few blankets. You may want to keep the windows open to let in the fresh air and keep the car interior from fogging up. Nights can get cool. Also have cash on you—some operations may be cash-only.
Other Things to Do in Ontario
Enjoying a drive-in movie is one of many great summer activities the whole family can enjoy. If you’re looking for more outdoor things to do, check out this post of places to visit in Southern Ontario.